Initial Publication Date: April 1, 2016

Identify Resources Needed for Change

Many resources must be in place for an institution to develop and implement innovative and sustainable change. In a project's pilot phase, faculty leadership and faculty and staff time are critical, and external grant funding also is helpful. To ensure a program's continued existence, the senior administration (president or provost) must make it possible for faculty and staff to maintain their involvement (possibly through course releases or redistribution of duties) and be prepared to commit institutional operating funds. Aspects of successfully institutionalized programs at our colleges include:

Select Task-Appropriate Leaders

Every successful effort needs a clearly identified leader (or leadership team) who can devote the time and energy to move along the collective effort. These are sometimes positional leaders or teams (e.g. deans, department chairs, existing committees), sometimes roving leaders who find space in their current workloads to take on leadership responsibilities, sometimes task forces named for a particular task, and sometimes individuals provided short-term release time for leadership.

Recognize Importance of Professional Development

Despite noble intentions, projects sometimes falter because we fail to provide resources for necessary professional development. Time is often the most valuable resource necessary to implement change. It is therefore crucial to identify and implement strategies for professional development of faculty and staff. One advantage of investments in professional development is that, if well done, those involved are changed, whether or not funding persists.

Barnard College

The 2000 award from HHMI supported the development of Science in the City, an effort by faculty in the education program to develop science curricula for elementary and middle school students that centered on resources available in New York City. While preparing the proposal for the 2004 award, an assistant professor of education proposed a change in the seminar that would make it a professional development opportunity for both in-service and pre-service teachers. Although the program director found the idea exciting, he was concerned that steering the seminar in that direction would be time-consuming; he feared that it would detract from the assistant professor's research activity and reduce her chances of being awarded tenure. In the end, the college included funding for the revamped seminar in the proposed budget with the understanding that it would be a focus of the assistant professor's research effort. Science in the City has been a great success, and the junior colleague—now a tenured associate professor at Barnard—has disseminated the approach through multiple papers and meeting presentations. Thus, the seminar provided professional development for both the teachers and future teachers who participated and for the instructor who developed it.

Hope College
Hope's Professional Learning Community program brings faculty and staff together to discuss issues and support one another as changes are implemented. To support faculty who are designing and implementing new course-based research experience, we have provided workshops and "personal trainers" to provide support and take advantage of valuable experience among the faculty.

Consider Reallocation of Existing Resources

We often consider existing budgets to be sacrosanct. However, creative reallocation of existing budgets in accord with named priorities can sometimes launch a new initiative with minimal impact on existing programs. Often, a pilot can launch at modest initial expense, allowing some activity to start without a huge institutional financial or human resource commitment. If a project eventually attracts substantial external funding that fully supports the ongoing operation of the program, the transition to self-sufficiency might be less dramatic if the grant budget gradually ramps down and institutional funding gradually ramps up. This gradual reallocation of existing resources minimizes the likelihood that the project hits a budgetary cliff when grant funding ends.

Seek Bridge Funding

External or internal bridge funding is sometimes all it takes to develop pilot programs. This can be done while discussing strategies for long-term support of successful programs with senior administration. If a project attracts substantial external funding that is ultimately needed for ongoing operation of the program, it is often easier to make the transition to self-sufficiency if the grant budget gradually ramps down and institutional funding gradually ramps up, so that the project does not hit a budgetary cliff when the grant funding ends.

Smith College
A good example of a successful program that was launched with grant or piecemeal funding is Smith's Achieving Excellence in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering programs (AEMES), created to support students from social groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
Spelman College
In the current grant, Spelman initiated the Spelman College Annual Research Competition that invites interdisciplinary student teams to work on a year-long project that solves a problem proposed by faculty or a sponsor. The program has worked closely with our Institutional Advancement (IA) Office on campus to identify potential sponsors. Most recently, the IA Office identified a corporation that is interested in the competition. A representative of this biomedical firm visited campus and met with IA and the HHMI staff to discuss potential projects, and the program was able to secure additional funding to support the awards given to the competing teams. Additionally, the corporation is interested in inviting student participants to visit its facilities in California with the potential of offering student internships. We also have been able to leverage this relationship to identify other companies willing to sponsor future competitions on campus.
Barnard College
When Barnard received its first award from HHMI in 1991, the proposal included the development of the Intercollegiate Partnership (ICP), a collaboration between Barnard and LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) that facilitates the transfer of community college students to four-year institutions. Barnard had not previously offered any program that was remotely similar to the ICP, and there were few models available (other than Vassar College's Exploring Transfer program, which has always had a somewhat different focus and structure). The budget from that first award included funding for three cycles of the Intercollegiate Partnership, even though the first award period spanned five years. After evaluating the ICP and discovering that it had an enormously positive impact on the participants, we were able to reallocate some of the funds from the HHMI award and supplement them with a bridge grant from the Ford Foundation. The funding allowed Barnard to run the ICP for another year, during which the college applied for and received continued funding from HHMI.

Draw on Multiple Sources of Input and Support

We know that diverse groups develop more creative solutions to problems. We also know that more diversified financial portfolios fare better over the long term. The lesson here is that projects are more likely to be successful if we can, at least eventually, support them from leadership that is pluralistic, evolves over time, and is capable of drawing from a diverse funding stream.